Ninenews: cheap and nasty Skyrail version offered to Moreland

Resident response to latest LXR Coburg announcement. Source: Ninenews

“The People of Moreland are being offered the cheap and nasty Skyrail version, which is really disappointing” says James Conlan on the latest announcement for the Bell street to Moreland Road level crossing removal project.

Stairs and lifts will be provided at the stations, but no escalators.

It is clear from the images that the stations will not be sited to improve pedestrian access. Coburg Station will move slightly south, and Moreland Station will move slightly north.

No elevated veloway will be included as part of the design, with no improvement offered to separating cycling and pedestrians at congestion points of Bell Street and Moreland Road crossings, and to reduce pedestrian and cycling conflict around station precincts.

“Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan joined Member for Pascoe Vale Lizzie Blandthorn today to reveal designs for the rail bridge that will remove every level crossing between Bell Street in Coburg and Moreland Road in Brunswick.” said the Ministerial press release.

“These designs are the product of extensive community consultation and will not only remove these four dangerous level crossings – they’ll create new parks, paths and gardens in the heart of Coburg and Brunswick.” said Minister Allan.

But it is clear consultation has been flawed, and there has been no official response to, or effort to meet with the Upfield Corridor Coalition to discuss the themes and demands in their Vision for the Upfield Corridor document. The group protested outside the minister’s office on Friday.

“I thank everyone for their feedback and contribution to the project. The community said they wanted these level crossings gone, better walking and cycling connections, and more open space – that’s what we’re delivering.” is the quote for Lizzie Blandthorn.

Yet the designs fail to address the congestion and conflict problems for cyclists and pedestrians at Moreland Road and Bell Street crossings and around the station zones.

Would it really be that difficult, or costly, as part of the rail bridge to put in bicycle bridges at the main roads and stations? The Upfield Bike Path is an arterial cycling route, with a strong growth trend in cycling in the last few years.

Level Crossing removal should be factoring in the changing trend of cycling in Moreland and building for the future. Residents have indicated strong support for this, yet the Local MP for Pascoe Vale has failed to sufficiently grasp this change.

The Level Crossing Removal Authority released a video showing more details of the level crossing removal design.

A series of artist images show more detail, some featuring ground level bike path, a dog off-leash area, and images of greenery around Moreland Station and Gandolfo Gardens.

Almost certainly many of the mature trees in Gandolfo Gardens and Moreland Reserve on the east side will be chopped down for construction.

The congestion points for cyclists at Moreland Road and Bell street crossings and around station precincts is still highly problematic for predestrian and cycling conflict.

The most prominent call by residents during open space plannig consultation, according to the LXRP, was relating to provision of good active transport, including requests for an elevated veloway to resolve conflict issues. See Open Space Feedback Report and Download the PDF.

Report on what the community wanted. (Active transport) Separated bike paths. Source: LXRP

The designers simply do not understand that the Upfield bike path is an arterial cycling route and their designs have inherently failed to address this problem at the main road interesctions and around stations.

Coburg Station and Bell Street crossing still a congestion and conflict zone. Source: LXRP

So what did Premier Dan Andrews say?

Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said on Facebook:

“We promised to slash congestion and make these communities safer by removing these level crossings – we’re doing that, and creating kilometres of new parklands and open space at the same time.

These designs are the product of extensive community consultation and will not only remove these four dangerous level crossings – they’ll create new parks, paths and gardens in the heart of Coburg and Brunswick.”

Local Pascoe Vale MP Lizzie Blandthorn said on Facebook:

“Today I joined Jacinta Allan Minister for Transport infrastructure at Coburg station to share the designs for the removal of the dangerous and congested level crossings between Moreland Rd and Bell Street Coburg. There are seperate bike and pedestrian paths, modern stations respecting local heritage, and nearly two MCGs worth of open space for the community. Looking forward to the next consultation stage and hearing what you think!”

Brunswick MP Tim Read, who wasn’t invited to this launch or the previous launch event, commented on Facebook:

“Skyrail news. More pictures, a video and plans released today – see comments for more. But the pictures leave some questions unanswered.

The government has confirmed they will buy some people out, and that most construction will occur during a 3 month period in the second half of 2020, later than planned.

The text below comes from the plans, and it’s hard to know how many of the older established trees will go from Gandolfo Gardens, and how many will stay. But the drawings show a lot of newly planted trees. It might come down to the footprint of the cranes.”

In an added comment he said:

As I read more I’ve seen some good things in these announcements: Separated bike and pedestrian paths make sense at peak hour. Some thought has been put into bikes crossing roads – I believe they should have little or no wait after pressing the button at the lights (like Brunswick Rd and Canning St).
And the statement: “No trees will be removed for storing materials in Gandolfo Gardens” suggests that campaigning by the Upfield Corridor Coalition and others has been heard.

Similarly the announcement that there will be no veloway is at least honest and is obviously in response to campaigning for a veloway. I’m sure it would have been possible to build one had there been sufficient political will.

I anticipate some extra bike traffic on Sydney Rd, while the skyrail is being built, regardless of where the LXRP and the Council direct bikes to go. Sounds like an opportunity for a trial bike lane.

I will continue to emphasise to the government the importance of retaining as many trees as possible, and attempt to get our many other questions answered.

Plans unveiled

In the LXRP newsletter Bell to Moreland issue #4 – August 2019 plans for the viaduct and the landscaping were at last presented.

Bell to Moreland viaduct plan 1
Bell to Moreland viaduct plan 2
Bell to Moreland viaduct plan 3

Open space Landscaping and Upfield bike path route:

Open space plan – Moreland Station and Moreland Road Source: LXRP
Open space plan – Norman St and Woolacott st Source: LXRP
Open space plan – Reynard St and Munro st Source: LXRP
Open space plan – Coburg Station and Bell st Source: LXRP
Cross section and dimensions of the Rail viaduct. Source: LXRP

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